The Gators wind up spring drills this week and Tuesday was the last real pad practice before the annual spring game on Friday night in front of a national television audience. They will have a walk-through on Thursday in preparation for a large crowd to watch them for the first time this spring.
Wilson says he and his teammates feel like they improved.
“It’s been a grind, but you know we got better this spring,” Wilson said following a hard practice on Tuesday. “We’ll have some things to work on in the offseason.”
A big part of the spring for the secondary is a new coach back there on defense. Torrian Gray came over from Virginia Tech and he has been pushing his guys to play at a higher level.
“The biggest difference is that he’s teaching us to play faster,” Wilson said of Gray. “We’ve
got all the talent but we’re learning how to play smarter, reading certain things, getting better, and playing faster so we can make plays on the ball.”
The guy opposite him at cornerback, Jalen Tabor, is getting most of the attention. That just makes Wilson work that much more.
“I’m just working hard so that when the season comes I can make my plays,” he said. “I need to capitalize on my opportunities, catch the ball, and get interceptions when the ball comes my way.”
He understands the things that he has to work on the most to get to where he wants to get.
“Basically technique, really just having my eyes in the right places,” he said. “At times I could have my eyes in the backfield or something. I’m just getting better at the mental part of the game.”
He’s improved this spring while at the same time coming back from hernia surgery that didn’t keep him out much, but slowed him with pain earlier in the month long session. He’s feeling much better now.
“It’s been a little frustrating but I’ve been getting healthy,” he said. “I’m pretty much almost healthy.”
He and Tabor should make one of the best corner combinations in all of college football in 2016. They have plenty of experience to draw from, they play the game very physically, and they also know where they need to get better. He says Tabor is working on the same things to make himself better.
“Playing faster, playing smarter, and knowing what’s going to happen before it happens,” Wilson said. “We’ve just been watching film and understanding what’s coming before it comes, so we can play fast and make the play.”
One issue at the position is depth, especially in terms of experience.
“There’s not really that much depth, so we all gotta stay healthy,” he said.
He does like how some of the younger, less experienced guys in the secondary are working this spring. There are some holes to fill, and he expects them to be filled nicely.
“Nick Washington, Marcell and some of the young guys like Chauncey Gardner, they’ve all been improving,” he said. “We’ve all been improving. McArthur Burnett, all of us. Coach Gray has been teaching us some real good stuff and coaching us real hard. That’s been real good for us.”
“He’s fast, he wants to learn too,” Wilson said of Gardner. “He’s getting better every day, really listening, learning from his mistakes, learning from us. He’s doing well.”
Wilson said the aggressive part of the game is a necessity, but you have to be smart about it.
“It’s always good to be aggressive, but at the right time we have to make sure we’re being aggressive in the right situations and be aware so you’re not overly aggressive on certain things when you maybe should be in the post or something. We’re coaching them up.”
Another player expected to add depth for the Gators is sophomore Chris Williamson. He says Williams was hindered last year with an injury that kept him from playing more than he did. He expects quite a lot more from his teammate this go-around.
“He’s really been improving,” Wilson said of Williamson. “He was hurt pretty much all last season but he’s been doing real well. He’s pretty much like an incoming freshman, brand new freshman. But he’s been coming along with the others.”
Friday night, the whole world will get to see what the secondary is going to do without the likes of future NFL players Vernon Hargreaves and Keanu Neal. Wilson knows what they need to do.
“We just want to make sure that we’re playing fast, that we’re playing with great eyes,” he said. “Just make plays on the ball whenever one comes our way.”
Talking the young receivers…
A big part of spring ball the past month has been the addition of three receivers to the roster. Junior college transfer Dre Massey and early entries from high school Josh Hammond and Freddie Swain have done well and been mentioned quite often from those watching and coaching the team. Wilson likes what he sees from the group.
"They're really talented,” he said. “They give us a lot of good work in practice. I really like Josh Hammond. He's really explosive and a go-getter. He fights for the ball. Freddie Swain, too, they've all been competing."
"They like to fight for the ball. They're just not taking no for an answer. They're trying to get better and they're making us better."
Wilson thinks there will be a whole new outlook on offense because of the receivers and the new guys slinging them the ball as well.
"We really need that,” he said about the better play at wide out. “It's good that we have a quarterback now to get them the ball. So now I think they'll have a better attitude in the game because they know the ball is going to come."